Which plastic water bottles don’t leach chemicals?

Plastic water bottles are very convenient for carting water around when we are on the go, as they don’t break if we drop them. It is worth paying attention to the type of plastic your water bottle is made of, to ensure that the chemicals in the plastic do not leach into the water. If you taste plastic, you are drinking it, so get yourself another bottle.

To be certain that you are choosing a bottle that does not leach, check the recycling symbol on your bottle. If it is a #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), or a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene), your bottle is fine. The type of plastic bottle in which water is usually sold is usually a #1, and is only recommended for one time use. Do not refill it. Better to use a reusable water bottle, and fill it with your own filtered water from home, and keep these single-use bottles out of the landfill.

Unfortunately, those fabulous colourful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics and identified by the #7 recycling symbol, may leach BPA. (Bisphenol A is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies).  Synthetic chemical endocrine disruptors are particularly devastating to babies and young children.

Unfortunately, most plastic baby bottles and drinking cups are made with plastics containing Bisphenol A. In 2006 Europe banned all products made for children under age 3 containing BPA, and as of Dec. 2006 the city of San Francisco followed suit. In March 2007 a billion-dollar class action suit was commenced against Gerber, Playtex, Evenflo, Avent, and Dr. Brown’s in Los Angeles superior court for harm done to babies caused by drinking out of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA. So, to be certain that your baby is not exposed, use glass bottles.

For more of the science on the effects of BPA on our endocrine system etc. see these studies: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal. Nalgene, the company that manufactures the lexan bottles also makes #2 HDPE bottles in the same sizes and shapes, so we do have a viable alternative. Order one at Nalgene.

Check the recycling numbers on all your plastic food containers as well, and gradually move to storing all food in glass or ceramic. Store water in glass if possible, and out of direct sunlight.

Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.
Doheny, Brenda;   Nalgene Plastics May be Harmful  online at Oregan State Daily Barometer
Hunt,Patricia; “Bisphenol A Exposure Causes Meiotic Aneuploidy in the Female Mouse”  Current Biology, Vol 14, 546-553, 1 April 2003.
vom Saal, Frederick and Hughes, Claude;  “An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment”  Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, No. 8, August 2005.



  1. DR. JOE ANTONY said,

    June 3, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

    Dear Vreni,
    Really nice article. Enjoyed reading it. But how do I in India, make out the type of plastic used here. I use refillable (bubble top) plastic containers using mineral water. Is that harmful?
    Also, any idea about Agel? Someone here in my town, Cochin, is promoting its products and claims it has many products with great wellness potential..
    See: http://www.agel.com Though they have a slick site and presentation, I wonder if it is as good as they say it is. What is your opinion?
    Dr. Joe Antony, MD.

  2. Vreni said,

    June 5, 2008 @ 12:50 am

    Hi Dr. Antony!

    Thanks for your comment – I’ve been meaning to tell you that I enjoy your posts and looking at the imaging too! Please keep them coming!

    As for your water bottle question, “I’m not sure” is the best answer I can give you. Is the plastic clear and so hard you cannot squeeze it at all? If so, I would be suspicious. If you can squeeze it, or the plastic is opaque, then it is more likely to be okay.

    As for Agel, I took a quick peak at their site, and to be very honest, it looks like processed, isolated nutrition, which in my humble opinion is far less useful to the body than whole food. Our body uses food in whole complexes. Once the nutrients are isolated and put together in another formulation, the body has to put together the whole food complex again before it can use it. So, the body can use an orange, but if all it gets is ascorbic acid, it has to put together all the synergistic ingredients to make the complex again so it can be used.

    Paul Chek puts it simply. “What part of a wrist watch can you take away, and still have it work?” Clearly there is no part of a watch that can be taken away. The sweep-hands in isolation can’t tell time. Food is the same. You are far better off eating a hard boiled egg than eating protein powders or gels, that frequently come with sugar, flavourings, colourings and all kinds of stuff the body has to detoxify.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion. Many may disagree with me, but I think our health woes have been brought about by eating artificial food made in a factory, rather than real food as nature intended.

    I hope that helps!

  3. Krishna said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

    Hi Vreni,

    I have been following your posts for almost an year now and thanks a bunch!

    Wanted to let you know that the link is no longer working:

    Doheny, Brenda; Nalgene Plastics May be Harmful online at Oregan State Daily Barometer

    I was stunned when I read the title of the article as I have been using Nalgene’s about 10$-15$ very hard sturdy bottle to carry home cold tap water – Breva filtered water in my 1.5L transparent bottle for almost ‘four’ years now.

    Also you note that your previous reply “Is the plastic clear and so hard you cannot squeeze it at all? If so, I would be suspicious. If you can squeeze it, or the plastic is opaque, then it is more likely to be okay.” which is exactly the opposite (transparent and hard Nalgene bottle) of what I carry. This is confusing!


  4. Vreni said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

    Hi Krishna,

    Thanks for letting me know about the link. I’ll see what I can do about that.

    Often the opaque softer plastics are a number 2, 4 or 5, and they do not contain BPA. Nalgene makes those kinds of bottles too. Nalgene has also revamped their formula – they now advertise that you can get hard plastic bottles that are BPA-free. This is good news. This change was entirely consumer-driven, which shows that if as consumers we make a fuss, companies will change.

    I hope that clarifies things for you. Thanks for reading!


  5. Krishna said,

    February 8, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

    and here is the updated link to Nalgene bottle controversy:


    It is unfortunate to know that I have been suggesting MANY of my folks and others to stop using the throw away, use only once mineral water bottles every day, educating them about going green, and also talking about the leaching issue with plastic bottles and instead suggested them to use the trendy reusable hard Nalgene water bottles, exactly the ones such as these:

    as posted in the article above!

    Turns out, they use Lexan polycarbonate resin to make these water bottles and they leach everytime you clean with hard detergents or use hot water which is exactly I have been doing every other month to clean my bottle for re-use/refill every day. The article also says, “In addition to determining that used, or discolored, polycarbonate plastics leach high amounts of BPA at room temperature, this study found that detectable levels of BPA leach from brand-new polycarbonate plastics at room temperature.”

    Hmm, the more educated I get, the more confusing it is and the lesser choices I have to choose from!

    Vreni, I dont remember any bottles mentioning the type when shopping/buying for any of my friends. Will a cheap walmart bottle be better or is there a company/model that I can choose from? What about the Breva filter jug itself, is that made from the right plastic?

    Waiting for the answers,

  6. Samuel L. said,

    April 24, 2009 @ 6:11 am

    Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is more than I expected when I stumpled upon a link on Furl telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  7. Vreni said,

    April 22, 2010 @ 12:38 am

    Just heard a good little saying to help us remember which plastics are the safest:

    Two, four, five – keep yourself alive!

    Hope that helps!

  8. Helen said,

    February 6, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

    I love all your tips and all your fabulous information. I have been wondering about the plastic that go coffee lids are made of. When you say if you taste the plastic you are eating the plastic it occurs to me that I am tasting it in the coffee lids. I have not seen a label to indicate the number plastic it actually is and rarely drink form them but am curious for sure.

  9. Vreni said,

    February 6, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    Hmm, very good question! I don’t know the answer to it. I think I’ll be looking carefully at those lids the next time I see them! Another reason to bring a reusable mug when you buy coffee / tea!

  10. Emily said,

    March 12, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    Hello! Thanks you for the article. I’ve started living a green lifestyle, and plastics play a big part in it. I’ve tried to rule them out as much as possible. It’s just not worth the convenience to consume harmful chemicals and hurt the environment! And to be honest, I definitely think my Klean Kanteen bottle is waaaay cuter then any old plastic one :).

    Thanks again for the article, keep up the great green work!

  11. Gary said,

    May 21, 2013 @ 10:53 am

    The question as to what category a particular plastic bottle falls under, (i.e. #2, #4, etc.) can be answered by simply looking on the bottom of the bottle. Most bottles have a recycling symbol on the bottom depicting a triangle made of arrows, with a number in the middle. This may not be true in all bottles, but a good many of them. Thanks. 🙂

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